Primer: Gun Control Focus Is Preventing Safer Communities
The proposals currently being considered in Congress are unconstitutional and ineffective for the purpose of preventing mass killings.
In the aftermath of the horrific mass killings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, progressive politicians and their allies in the media have once more turned to gun confiscation and disarmament of tens of millions of law-abiding American citizens as their immediate priority. By now, the cycle of such events has become as rote as it is tragic: a criminal psychopath takes numerous innocent lives by attacking a soft target, the criminal is discovered to come from a broken home and possessing numerous red flags that were mostly ignored, existing laws were not enforced or unable to prevent the tragedy, and powerful anti-constitutional institutions immediately blame the exercise of God-given rights by model citizens as the underlying problem.
Unsurprisingly Congress is now preparing a series of legislative responses to the Buffalo and Uvalde killings that are designed to deteriorate the Second Amendment and punish non-criminals in the false name of compassion. Specifically, the bills will seek to raise the legal age to purchase a semi-automatic firearm, ban so-called “high-capacity” magazines, and impose background checks on private transfers among other harmful provisions.
These policies will do nothing to prevent horrors like Buffalo and Uvalde from occurring and serve as little more than opportunistic power grabs that stand in the way of meaningful measures that could actually make our communities, our schools, and our families safer without trampling the rights of the American people.
Background: The Purpose of the Second Amendment
The Bill of Rights of the Constitution acknowledge and reaffirm the God-given rights that are inherent and guaranteed to every individual. These rights are not granted by government, but rather intrinsic to human freedom–predicated on the fundamental precepts of the American idea outlined in the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Second Amendment undergirds this revolutionary truth and is essential to guaranteeing that our rights are not violated, that life can be protected, that liberty can be defended, and that the freedom to pursue our happiness through our innate talents and gifts can be fostered. Put another way, the Second Amendment is designed to empower individuals with the ability to come together in common cause and thwart tyrannical government should it attempt to strip us of our freedom and our God-given rights.
The juxtaposition between gun control policies and criminal justice policies among progressive elected officials is striking and should not be ignored as part of the larger policy discussion. At the same time that far-left politicians work to disarm law-abiding American citizens following evil acts committed by lawless criminals, many of the same progressive politicians support policies to defund the police, release criminals back onto the streets, and prevent the mentally ill from receiving the help and treatment they need.
As violent crime increases at historic levels due to foolhardy policies to defund the police, demonize law enforcement, and prioritize criminals over citizens, the Second Amendment–and the lawful exercise thereof–is more important now than at any time in recent history. Far-left lawmakers in Washington D.C. are seeking to actively prevent model, law-abiding citizens from having the ability to protect themselves and their families even as they simultaneously advance initiatives that empower criminals to commit higher rates of violent crimes against their own constituents. This is a fundamental betrayal of the oath taken to uphold and preserve the U.S. Constitution and yet another reminder that the corruption in our nation’s institutions runs deep.
Gun Control Masked as “Reform”
The House of Representatives is poised to debate and pass two legislative packages containing a series of gun control measures. The Protecting Our Kids Act (H.R. 7910) is a series of eight smaller bills embedded under six titles that contain a range of policies targeting American citizens and their constitutional rights. According to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), all eight of the measures contained in this package will receive stand-alone votes “to place Republicans on record.”
The second package, dubbed the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act (H.R. 2377), would implement a national “red flag” law that would give courts the power to confiscate firearms from citizens deemed to “pose a threat,” thus undermining fundamental rights to due process.
An honest evaluation of the policies being proposed demonstrates the measures being advanced would have no impact on preventing mass murders.
Raising Age of Firearm Possession from 18 to 21
Among many provisions, H.R. 7910 would prohibit businesses who hold a Federal Firearm License (FFL) from selling semi-automatic centerfire rifles or semi-automatic centerfire shotguns to anyone under the age of 21. The legislation carves out two exceptions for active-duty members of the military or government employees authorized to carry firearms. This would arbitrarily prohibit adults from purchasing commonly-used firearms in what is tantamount to a near-total ban.
Under federal law, as soon as someone turns 18-years-old, he or she is recognized as an adult and is allowed to vote. Since 1998, there have been 89 mass public shootings. In 81 of these cases, an increased age restriction would not have been relevant and in only four cases (4.5 percent of the total) would an age prohibition have been arguably preventative. This, of course, presumes that the criminals in these four instances would not have found another way to acquire the weapons they sought. Furthermore, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from 2001 outlined the ease with which a determined killer can use a fake ID to circumvent the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS) and acquire a firearm.
Arbitrary and contradictory age limits will disarm college-aged adults and do little–if anything–to prevent the horrors recently seen in both Buffalo and Uvalde. Young women between the ages of 18 and 21 are often targets of sexual assault and other violent crimes. Legislation that will disarm young adult women places a political agenda ahead of their safety.
Universal Background Checks
A common policy prescription following a mass shooting is a “universal background check” ostensibly designed to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and individuals who otherwise should not possess a deadly weapon. The Senate did not pass expanded background checks following Sandy Hook in 2013. It has been reported that negotiators in the U.S. Senate are now open to “expanding background checks” in response to Buffalo and Uvalde.
The enforcement mechanism of these universal checks would require providing law enforcement agencies with the power to check firearm possession for every American to ensure both compliance and effectiveness. This would create a backdoor gun registry already prohibited under federal law in the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. Additionally, the very gun transactions that progressives are hoping to capture by expanding background check requirements are the very transactions criminals will ignore. The net effect of this policy is merely to make currently legal and good faith transactions harder to carry out.
The existence of the NICS system is already designed to provide FFL licensees with the resources necessary to determine if an individual has a criminal background or not. The imposition of universal checks on all purchases and transfers (a vague term that could include simply handing a firearm to a friend) would necessitate empowering the federal government to monitor and track every firearm possessed by law-abiding American citizens.
Arguments for expanding background checks rest on the premise that criminals seeking to do harm, such as committing a mass shooting, would be prevented from attaining a gun due to failing a background check. However, a large proportion of mass shootings (77 percent according to a recent National Institute of Justice report) occur after a legal purchase of a weapon. For the killers who obtained firearms without a legal purchase, they mostly went through a process of attaining a gun that would require voluntary compliance. A gang member selling a gun to another gang member lacks such civic sensibilities. However, two friends engaged in a private transaction, with neither party possessing criminal intentions or backgrounds, will be forced to comply with additional layers of bureaucracy to an otherwise legal exchange that unduly burdens the exercise of a constitutional right. The end result is empowerment of criminals over law-abiding citizens.
Red Flag Laws
The core of H.R. 2377 is a national red flag gun confiscation law that would empower federal judges to issue “extreme risk protection orders” (ERPO) against individuals who have made recent threats or acts of violence against another person or themselves, a recent act of animal cruelty, evidence of ongoing substance abuse, a history of violence against an individual, or evidence of a explicit or implicit threat through any medium. These ex parte orders from a federal judge would require an individual to surrender their firearms and ammunition to a designated law enforcement officer or U.S. Marshal.
There is no data to suggest that red flag laws–which exist in 20 states in various capacities–would have prevented a single recent mass shooting. This is primarily due to the fact that such killers have passed background checks, governmental authorities have often failed to act on prior behavior with prosecutable arrest or involuntary commitment for mental illness, or the suspect presented no “red flags” before committing the violent act. A case in point, New York has the strongest state red flag laws in the nation–yet, none of its provisions were triggered by the Buffalo killer before his horrific rampage.
A national red flag law would empower federal judges to run roughshod over multiple constitutional amendments and unilaterally determine whether an individual’s due process rights can be violated. H.R. 2377 has an entire section–following the filing of an ERPO petition–that condescends about a recipient’s “opportunity to be heard” as a tacked-on afterthought. This would directly violate Second Amendment rights and due process rights while simultaneously creating a system ripe for abuse wherein innocent, law-abiding Amerians are potentially targeted by secret courts at the discretion of a single aggrieved party.
None of the red flag laws in various states adequately address constitutional due process concerns, and there is no reason to believe a federal law will either.
Restricting Magazine Capacity
Section 602 of Title VI in H.R. 7910 would ban magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition with specific exceptions for government officials authorized to carry firearms and law enforcement officers. This policy would ban a significant number of standard firearms including one of the most commonly used and popular self-defense weapons: the Glock 19. Such semiautomatic firearms typically hold 15 rounds and are routinely the firearm of choice for millions of law-abiding citizens. Arbitrary limits on ammunition puts citizens at an extreme disadvantage when faced with criminals who will not abide by the same regulations.
Furthermore, magazine capacity restrictions have no relevance to the Buffalo and Uvalde killings and are instead a naked power grab aimed squarely at disarming families, single mothers, and millions of upstanding carry permit holders. Furthermore, most new semiautomatic AR-15s that are sold to consumers come with a standard 30 round magazine, meaning the most commonly used semiautomatic rifle would also be banned.
Tracking ‘Ghost’ Guns
Title III of H.R. 7910 would prohibit the assembly of a firearm in a private residence as well as such common activities as breaking down firearms for cleaning and reassembly. Furthermore, Title III would criminalize the molding or machining of homemade firearms in an effort to ensure all firearms contain a serial number for tracking through a federal registry operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Violations would result in up to one-year in prison or five years for a subsequent violation. These measures criminalize the routine maintenance and operations of firearms in the private confines of an individual’s residence, thereby subjecting nearly all gun owners to potential criminal convictions for maintaining, cleaning, or assembling their firearms.
This policy is entirely unrelated to both the Buffalo and Uvalde attacks and would have done nothing to prevent these evil acts from occurring. It is designed to create a chilling effect on the Second Amendment through what is tantamount to a national gun registry. Criminals do not routinely leave guns at the scenes of their crimes. When firearms are found at a crime scene, it is typically because the owner of the gun was killed or badly injured. Serial numbers are mostly useless in solving gun crimes in many cases because ballistic tests must be conducted to tie the weapon to the crime scene. Mandating serial numbers for all firearms is a policy designed to enact a national registry to track individual Americans and the guns they purchase and possess.
‘Safe’ Storage Protocols
Title IV of H.R. 7910 requires gun owners to implement “safe storage” procedures in their home. The details of these storage procedures are both specific and onerous in the legislation, but have the potential to become more aggressive at the discretion of the Attorney General who is empowered to create and promote “best practices” for safe gun storage. Aside from making home and personal defense scenarios more risky–and likely resulting in unnecessary loss of life–failure to adhere to these storage parameters could result in gun confiscation.
Again, storage protocols are entirely unrelated to both the Buffalo and Uvalde attacks and would have done nothing to prevent these evil acts from occurring. Gun owners should ensure their weapons are safely handled at all times, and parents should ensure untrained and age inappropriate children cannot access weapons easily. However, conditioning the right to keep and bear arms on costly bureaucracies and mandates, as outlined in the proposed provisions, is tantamount to a poll tax for gun owners. Such costs are a burden on exercising a secured right, unrelated to the direct purchase of the weapon at a fair market price.
Ultimately, the gun control provisions currently under consideration in Congress in the aftermath of Buffalo and Uvalde are designed to pave the way toward mandatory gun confiscation similar to disarmament initiatives previously seen in Australia and most recently proposed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Policy Proposals: Better Ways to Improve Public Safety
Contrary to critics, proponents of constitutional rights and the Second Amendment believe that there are public policy actions that can be taken to help curb the kind of evil Americans saw on full display in Buffalo and Uvalde–as well as other horrific killings over the decades.
It is first imperative to address the unfortunate fact that fundamental societal dynamics are unhealthy, which creates broken homes and broken people. While divorce rates have been steadily declining in the past decade, the overall rate is double what it was in 1960, meaning that large numbers of Americans are growing up in households torn apart by separated mothers and fathers. Over 40 percent of all children in the United States are currently born to single mothers.
A 2016 study found that the vast majority of school shooters–such as the killer in Uvalde–come from broken homes marred by divorce, separation, substance abuse, child abuse, infidelity, and domestic violence. Tragically, several of these dynamics are known to apply to the Uvalde killer.
In addition to these larger societal dynamics, which must be addressed through a proactive and sustained effort by policymakers to support intact homes and stable lifestyles, there are immediate policy measures that can and should be taken to prevent future attacks from occurring.
These measures will ensure that schools are better protected, potential criminal killers are better thwarted, and the rights of law-abiding Americans are better secured than anything being put forth by federal lawmakers. Progressive activists and officials should abandon their foolhardy fixation on gun control and instead embrace actual solutions that will have a sustained long-term impact on restoring healthier and safer communities.
The proposals currently being considered in Congress are unconstitutional and ineffective for the purpose of preventing mass killings. The purpose of the legislative agenda in Washington D.C. is to punish law-abiding Americans in order to advance policies that empower control over the ability of Americans to exercise their God-given rights.
One of the most stringent red flag laws in the country failed to prevent the Buffalo mass shooting. Despite longstanding concerns over the Uvalde killer’s behavior, individuals failed to report prosecutable activity to the proper authorities that could have stopped the shooting without utilizing a constitutionally-dubious red flag provision.
Liberty depends on an armed and virtuous people that act as a de facto check on authoritarianism. An unarmed society is one susceptible to oppression and tyranny. And a disarmed citizenry paves the way for such an eventuality to occur. The question is not whether it will happen, but rather when it will happen. Tyranny over the lives of man is the unfortunate historical norm throughout human history.
Instead of further gun control measures, the focus should be on hardening our schools, reinvigorating efforts that involuntarily commit the mentally ill to institutions that can provide needed treatment, rejecting postmodern moral relativism that continues to corrupt the spirit of the American people, and promoting stable households and fatherhood as a critical societal value necessary for the development of sound children and future citizens.
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